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Totalitarianism, Violence, and the Color Red in the Handmaid’s Tale

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Totalitarianism, Violence, and the Color Red in the Handmaid’s Tale
Totalitarianism, Violence, and the Color Red in The Handmaid’s Tale In literature, the color red symbolizes many things, each with its own emotional impact. Red can be associated with violence and bloodshed, or it can be associated with love and intense emotions. In The Handmaid’s Tale, Offred, chosen to be a “baby-maker” for a couple she was assigned to, desires to escape the dystopian society that she lives in. Thus, Margaret creates a fictional government that uses totalitarianism, violence, and the reoccurring pattern of the color red to illustrate the negative impact it has on women, especially the Handmaids. Throughout The Handmaid’s Tale, Offred recalls her past life before and during the creation of the Republic of Gilead. The radical political change was carried out by a coup to create a “right-wing, fundamentalist Christian theocracy” (Beauchamp). The goal of the new regime was to create a new society with cult-like evangelical culture that bases a majority of its policies on readings of the Old Testament in the Bible. In this new society, censoring and controlling of all aspects of daily life, was key, all of the civilians were forced to fulfill predestined roles. The total oppression of women in all aspects of their feminine lives is a main theme in this fictional tale. Women were confined to gender based functions that were determined by the male dictators of the society. For women, literacy and independence diminished, which limited their ability to communicate. An example form the novel that illustrates this was when Offred, the main character, recounted how strange and mysterious the change of regime came to her consciousness. She described the transformation in terms of what she observed: “There was a lot more music on the radio than usual, and fewer words” (174). This account portrays how the authorities limited independence of thought for women. Another example was when Offred’s credit card was declined because a policy was


Cited: Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale. New York: Anchor Books. 1986. Beauchamp, Gorman. "The Politics of The Handmaid 's Tale." The Midwest Quarterly 51.1 (2009): 11+ 2006. 7 May, 2010. Kas, Emily. “The Handmaid’s Tale.” November 7, 2007. aplitks.com. 7 May 2010. Malak, Amin. "Margaret Atwood 's 'The Handmaid 's Tale ' and the Dystopian Traditions." Canadian Literature 112 (Spring 1987): 9-16 Marie Rose Napierkowski. Vol. 4. Detroit: Gale, 1998. Literature Resource Center. Web. 7 May 2010.

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